Although Cannondale-Garmin suffered a serious blow on Sunday at the Tour of California when Andrew Talansky abandoned during stage 1, Joe Dombrowski, the team's other designated leader at the race, had a fairly easy day in the peloton.
Dombrowski cruised into the finish in Sacramento with the field as Mark Cavendish (Etixx-QuickStep) took the day's win in a bunch sprint ahead of Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo).
The 23-year-old American told Cyclingnews after the stage that although losing Talansky is a blow to the young squad in California, he believes the team is still in a good position to perform well the rest of the week.
"Obviously he, along with me, we were both looking to do a good GC here," Dombroswki said. "It's mutually beneficial to have us both here. On the climbs having two is always better than having one. So that's a bit of a blow, but I think we'll be alright still.
"We've got a young team here, and I think we can go for more stages like this, maybe look to the breakaway some days, and then over these next few days just not lose any time, and then at the time trial and Mt. Baldy do a good ride there and try and be up there in the GC."
The last time Dombrowski raced up Mt. Baldy in 2012 while riding for the Bontrager development team he finished fourth on the stage and ended up 12th overall. The following year he signed with Team Sky for two seasons, and he returned to California last year to help Bradley Wiggins take the overall.
This year Dombrowski is back and riding for himself again, and he said he's "really looking forward" to his return to the summit finish on Baldy.
"I'd really like to go for it and see what I can do," he said. "Obviously Sky has a strong team here this year, and there's a number of good GC riders, but I think that I should be good there."
Dombrowski's first season with US squad Cannondale-Garmin got off to a fast start at the Tour de San Luis, where he finished seventh on the mountainous Queen stage and seventh overall. The result was arguably his best since moving up to the WorldTour, and he credited the environment on his new team and improved health for helping him get there.
"I think it's a combination of things," he said. "Last year I was off the bike for a long time after the operation on my artery. So that was obviously a big setback and I was out of the races and off the bike."
The "artery" to which Dombrowski referred is his Iliac artery, which was restricting blood flow to his left leg. Surgery in July of last year corrected the problem.
"Once I got that fixed – you know having two working legs is obviously a good thing in professional bike racing – but I think also being in this team is an environment that's good for me," he said.
"Being amongst Americans is always nice, and I also have more opportunities here as a GC guy than at Sky. They're such a strong team in the stage races that if you’re a young up-and-comer it can be a little hard to ride for yourself there."
The now sole Cannondale leader at the race will have to survive through four more stages before the individual time trial at Big Bear Lake on Friday and then the Mt. Baldy stage on Saturday. But after two years of waiting for his chance to return to California and ride for himself, the prodigy from Virginia is ready to patiently bide his time in the peloton.
Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake before studying English and journalism at the University of Oregon. He has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon.
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